Leave the Office Behind and Prepared
When I went to Europe a few years ago, I literally had a minor breakdown the night before I left. It was 11:30pm. My taxi was coming to take me to the airport at 4am. Tom was already in Europe for a work trip and I was meeting him in Barcelona to start our vacation together. I had also been working nonstop for the past week preparing for my three week vacation and still had four work emails to send before leaving. I was exhausted, my brain amped up on Redbull, still had to finish packing, and spent the next hour and half crying pitifully as I got the house and myself ready for departure.
I needed a hug from Tom.
I also needed a better plan for handing over projects and getting my team at work ready for me to be gone. That Europe trip was my first major vacation leaving my department since I started (in case you didn’t read my About page, I was a workaholic for a couple years when I started my current job – which was dumb). For my most recent trip at the beginning of last month I left for two and a half weeks for my honeymoon and wedding. I didn’t check work email once.
When I left last month, other directors in the company asked me if I was worried about leaving my team for so long. To which I happily replied “nope, not at all” and meant it. Back before that Europe trip, I could not have said the same thing and was having major anxiety that I was going to come back to the department in disaster mode.
Five things happened in the past two and a half years to make me be able to skip out of the office with nary a worry and take a vacation without work stress.
1. I realized micromanaging is as stupid as not using vacation time. When I first became a manager I felt like I needed to know every little detail about everything my team was working on at all times. That was exhausting for me and I’m sure annoying for my team. The day I let go and allowed them start owning their projects and admitted to myself I wasn’t going to know everything anymore because I didn’t have to – that’s why I had these specialists on my team – was the day being a manager became exponentially more easy and fun. It was also the day the people on my team began progressing at rapid rates. Which did not mean I was about to be replaced. It meant more projects and more team members were added to my department. Win, win.
2. I stopped worrying that my boss would decide he didn’t need me anymore if everything progressed smoothly without me in the office. Instead, I realized that if everything didn’t go smoothly with me gone, that meant I wasn’t doing my job well, because I wasn’t training my team to excel.
3. Once I realized number one and two, I developed my team into project and team managers who I now count on almost like advisors. Believe me, they know more than I do about a lot of the projects I oversee and I’m completely ok with that. It frees up my time to strategize and read reports and figure out exactly where those projects should go next. Oh, and when I’m out of the office, they’re able to keep those projects going without any hiccups.
4. I stopped doing handover documents. I used to spend hours before a vacation putting together these huge, long, extensive documents for my team about everything under the sun I thought they might need to be aware of or that they might need to have to do while I was gone. It was a waste of my time and who knows if my team ever even read them after I left. They’re smart and they know what to do. That’s why I hired them. I just had to remind myself of that. Now I have 30 minute (if that) handover meetings, where I fill them in on anything they need to be aware of and they ask me any last minute questions they have before I leave for a vacation.
5. I have been burnt out on work more times than I care to admit and I realized that if I kept worrying about work and checking emails throughout my vacation, I would have a proper nervous breakdown instead of just the overdramatic one I had before the Europe trip.
My team is pretty awesome, which I’m lucky about. But I also know my realization on the above management style helped for making me able to have stress-free from work vacations.
When I came back home from my honeymoon, my good friend texted me asking if I was swamped at work and I texted back that actually, no, I wasn’t. My team handled everything while I was gone and they’ve just been filling me in on what I missed out on. That’s awesome u know u can really count on ur team!, she texted back.
Yes, yes it is. As is getting enough professional gumption to be ok with that.